Red wine can help prevent cancer - Leicester scientists have proved
Scientists at the University of Leicester have proved that a chemical found in red wine helps prevent cancer.
They have found a small dose of the chemical resveratrol, which is in skin of grapes used in red wine, prevented mice which are prone to growing cancerous tumours from developing them.
The potential health benefits of resveratrol have been talked about for many years – but the university's laboratory tests on mice is the first time there has been scientific proof that the chemical helps prevent cancer.
The mice were regularly given a dose of resveratrol throughout their lifetime, equivalent to the amount which would be found in a large glass of red wine.
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The next step in the scientists' research will be to look into how much humans would need to take for the same effect.
Professor Karen Brown, from the University of Leicester, will present the latest findings to more than 100 experts from around the world at a conference being hosted by the university today.
Prof Brown, from the university's cancer biomarkers and prevention group, said: "What has been amazing for us is to find that, in laboratory mice, a low dose of resveratrol, the equivalent of a big glass of red wine, was more effective than a larger dose in preventing tumours developing.
"However, we have also found it is most effective with a high-fat diet, and not a standard diet.
"We now need to do more work on how the chemical actually works in the body and how it works in human cells.
"It might be that it works differently in different people," she said.
The next stage in the research will be more laboratory work, followed by a year-long clinical study looking at changes in patients at high risk of developing cancer.
Clinical trials of the chemical on people have already showed it reaches prostate and bowel tissue, but the scientists need to do further tests to find out what effect it has on patients and if it could potentially interfere with other medication.
The trials will also look at the strength of what might be a suitable dose of resveratrol, which is given as a tablet.
Prof Brown said: "Because this is looking at prevention, it could be at least 20 years before we have definite findings, but the data we have looks promising.
"With all the exciting studies that are being done – especially the clinical trials – I hope we'll have a clearer picture in the next few years."
Resveratrol is widely available as a health supplement from high street shops.
It has been linked to helping prevent heart disease and diabetes as well as Alzheimer's disease and prolonging life.
It is also present in other foods such as grape juice and peanuts.
Prof Andy Gescher, from the University of Leicester, who has been working on the research for 10 years, said: "It may be that the amount of resveratrol people have in their normal diet is enough to be beneficial. We need to have evidence and show scientifically what happens."
Professor Karen Brown was interviewed before the conference on the subject of her research for a University podcast. Listen and download the podcast here: